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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Mamaw's Fried Okra

Fried okra just tastes like summer to me.  I remember being 5 or 6 years old and Nana had picked the okra out of her garden (which was more like a farm it was so big) and she and Mamaw were frying it in large batches to freeze.  They would lay it out on a sheet pan to cool and I would come in and steal bites.  I say bites... Nana says I stole handfuls.  She said she was afraid they wouldn't have any to freeze because I would eat it all.

Okra has to be at the top of my list of favorite vegetables.  When I was little pretty much the only vegetables I would eat were okra, broccoli, carrots, canned or frozen peas (I liked to eat them still frozen and so does Bailey), and green beans.  It was really hard for my parents to get me to try new vegetables, but those were almost guaranteed to disappear from my plate.

I'm still pretty picky about vegetables, but I'm much more relaxed about trying new things now than I was then.  Okra is still one of my favorites and up until this year I only got to eat it when Mom cooked it for me.  I finally learned to make it myself and you won't believe how easy it is.

This is not the fried okra you get in the cafeteria at school or at Cracker Barrel.  That okra has been dipped in some kind of batter.  This has no batter.  It's coated in a simple mixture of cornmeal, salt, and pepper and is fried in butter.  That's it.  Nothing fancy at all.  It's slightly crunchy and perfectly cooked.  It tastes like Mamaw's.  I know I've said it before, but I really love summer produce!

There aren't really any measurements here.  I make a small amount at a time because Aaron doesn't eat it.  I probably used 10-15 pieces of okra for just Bailey and myself.  The cornmeal that you use to coat it will keep in the freezer until the next time you need it so it's okay to have a lot leftover.  Just make however much your family will eat.

Mamaw's Fried Okra

1/2-1 cup cornmeal (any kind will work, self-rising or not, yellow or white)
salt and pepper to taste

Start by mixing the cornmeal and salt and pepper in a freezer bag.  I used a quart size freezer bag.  The only reason I suggest a freezer bag is that you may want to freeze the leftover meal once you're finished with it.  Just add the cornmeal, season with salt and pepper, and zip it up and shake to combine.  Be sure to consider whether the butter you're using to fry the okra is salted or unsalted.  If you're using salted butter or margarine you may want to go easy on the salt in the cornmeal.

Now cut the okra.  Cut off both ends and discard, then cut into 1/4 inch slices.  As you cut it add it to the bag with the cornmeal.

Once all of the okra is in the bag zip it back up and shake it well.  Make sure each piece is well coated.

Melt a few tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium to medium-high heat.  Once the butter is hot use your hand to shake the okra free of excess cornmeal and then add the okra to the pan.  Don't move it around too much.  You want the cornmeal to start browning before you toss the okra around.  This ensures that the cornmeal will stay stuck to the okra.  Cook over medium to medium-low heat, covered (I use aluminum foil to cover it) and stir or toss occasionally.  Cook for about 10 minutes total.  Taste the okra to be sure it's done.  It should be golden-brown, slightly crispy, and a bit softer than when you cut it.

Serve warm.

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